Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sun King Rules Still Apply in French "Journalism"

UPDATEShrinkwrapped has a good piece on the Al-Dura Con and in this case, a fraudulent NYT reporter named Nicholas Kristof. American journalists are a long line of silly superficial ideologues in general, but Gigi Geyer and many other veteran reporters on the Middle East are not the agitpreppie frauds that a Kristof or Jon Randall represents.

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet has a tooth-grinding article in The Weekly Standard concerning the notorious Al-Dura Affair, back in the beginning of the 2000 Intifada [staged by Arafat to cover his disgraceful refusal to accept the Clinton/Barak Compromise on Palestinian Statehood].

The tape of a small boy cowering in his father's arms while caught in crossfire in Gaza became a mantra of oppression. But now evidence has surfaced, gone to French court, and been upheld, that the whole affair might have been staged by Palestinian stringers.

Of course, we all remember the fighting between Israel & Hezbollah after Israeli soldiers were kidnapped along the Lebanese border. Photo-shopping & mysterious dead children were appearing in AP and other "reputable" wire services with alarming regularity---showing that a cottage industry of fakery may be helping spread canards about them mean Izzies. In the words of Newsweak editor Evan Thomas concerning the Duke lacrosse "rape" case, the narrative [rich white college boys & poor disadvantaged black stripper [oops, "exotic dancer"] is perfect, too bad the facts don't quite fit.

In fact, Evan, in France journalistic corruption is even further evolved than in Newsweak, CNN [which still has ogress N. Grace doing her emo gig nightly], and CBS [forced to jettison serial-faker Dan Rather & his 60 Minutes posse], as Anne-Elisabeth's great article above delineates in excruciating and thorough detail

My two-year stint as Vice-Consul in Lyon was served with Peter Tarnoff, who had just been the first American to go to ENA, the finishing school for French elitist snobs---government issue. Watergate was busting out all over and the Lyonnais marveled at the inability of Nixon to squash these impudent journalists at the Washington Post like bugs. After all, Le Canard Enchaine had recently been forced to retract a [true] story about "tables d'ecoutes" by an outraged French government caught wiretapping in flagrante delicto. The French hierarchy of top down dictatorship was so ossified in almost every segment of society, I learned, that when I was offered the job of junior political officer in Paris, I turned it down for a stint studying Arabic in Beirut. Working in the Paris Embassy was good training as a socialite [or socialist], but otherwise more or less being asst. curator in a museum.

What I did learn in Lyon from Peter & the Lyonnais was the abiding elitism of the French political/social/cultural landscape. The second lesson was the persistent anti-Semitism in the French mindset. Anne-Elisabeth outlines both, though inferentially vis-a-vis anti-Jewish sentiment, in her Weekly Standard article:
two years ago, after one Karsenty op-ed too many about the "arrant hoax" of the al-Dura affair, France 2 sued him for libel. In a country where judges are civil servants, their first ruling surprised few observers: They ruled for the national institution, France 2, and ordered the outsider, Karsenty, to pay one euro in damages to the plaintiffs, a fine of 1,000 euros, and another 3,000 euros in costs. Even accounting for France's relatively moderate legal rates, this was a slap on the wrist. Taking a gamble, Karsenty appealed.

The appeals court convened last month and asked for-gasp-evidence, namely the famous 27-minute France 2 unedited master footage, which not even Enderlin had seen when he filed his item for the evening news. (His Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu Rahmeh, had sent him by remote link about 6 minutes from which to make the news segment.) France 2, dragging its feet, eventually produced 18 minutes of film. (There is practically no such thing as "contempt of court" in such circumstances in the French judicial system.) The showing of this film made for an eerie moment at the trial, when the hitherto blasé judges sat up and started watching with more attention, then took a recess, after which they asked for all of France 2's footage. It would prove to be the turning point in the proceeding.

Karsenty came to court loaded for bear, with trolleyfuls of documentation, including a 90-page ballistics report. Out of it all, the court also trained its sights on a telling 2005 Le Figaro opinion piece by two establishment journalists, Denis Jeambar, then editor in chief of L'Express (France's answer to Newsweek), and Daniel Leconte, head of news documentaries at the state-run French-German cultural channel, Arte (a kind of French-German PBS), both unlikely participants in this undignified scrum. Jeambar and Leconte, egged on by a former Le Monde journalist, Luc Rosenzweig, who had taken a great interest in the case and started writing about it for the small Israeli news outfit Mena, asked France 2 as early as 2004 to show them the original raw rushes. Acknowledging Jeambar and Leconte's weight in the French establishment, France 2 had done for them what it had refused to do for countless others and had shown them, and Rosenzweig, the 27 minutes of film.

What happened then was typical of the cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof behavior even powerful French figures display when faced with any kind of violation of the unspoken but well-understood order of precedence obtaining among the elite here. While Jeambar and Leconte took their time to ponder what they'd seen, Rosenzweig had the nerve to file a piece for Mena describing the tape's scenes of staging just before the fatal shooting. You could see Palestinians being carried on stretchers into ambulances, then coming out again unharmed, all in a kind of carnival atmosphere, with kids throwing stones and making faces at the camera, despite what was supposed to be a tense situation. The tape showed occasional gunshots, not continuous firing. From the general horsing around captured on film by Abu Rahmeh, Mena concluded that the whole scene must have been staged.

The kangaroo aspect of the French judicial process is legendary. The very fact that the appeals court in this lengthy "limited-hangout" tactic by France2, a network packed with leftist mountebanks who make PBS socialist-totems like Bill Moyers look like centrists, is remarkable.

In France, you always print the legend rather than the grimy reality underlying the downfall of a great nation since the French Revolution, if one takes the long view. Recently a Paris Gallery hosted a collection of color photos taken during the German Occupation, again revealing what every Lyonnais knows---the French collaboration with the Nazis was as prevalent in Paris as it was in Vichy. But I digress. Anne-Elisabeth's piece should be read from top to bottom to understand the concrete-wall solidarity of the French elites even when confronted by massive proof or wrong. Even French Jews hesitate to rock the boat:
At the other end of the scale, there was the rather intimidating star lawyer Theo Klein, getting on in years, who 20 years ago had been the president of CRIF, the official umbrella representative body of French Jews. I called him and reminded him that he'd been kind enough to invite me to his 1989 French Revolution Bicentennial party. (His office was on the Champs-Elysées, and it was the dream vantage point from which to watch the Jean-Paul Goude-designed parade and listen to Jessye Norman, draped in a giant French flag, belting out the "Marseillaise.") Theo Klein took my call pleasantly and dove into the thick of the matter.

"Well, perhaps the bullets were not Israeli after all, but if something was set up, I'm sure Charles had nothing to do with it. He is a remarkable journalist. I respect him, and I'm sure this matters more than whether a bullet came from the right or from the left. After all, many Palestinian children have been killed in the Intifada. You know, the Israelis haven't made half the noise about this that some French Jews have." He was outraged, outraged by the court ruling.

The daughter and granddaughter of lawyers myself, I gently reminded him that it wasn't done in France to criticize a court ruling. He changed the subject as if stung. "Really, I find deplorable that people are hounding Charles Enderlin like that. He has suffered, really suffered. And his poor wife.  .  .  .  They wanted to emigrate to America at one stage, do you realize?"

Well, I suggested, Americans were actually rather big on correcting reporters' mistakes.

"Surely not after so much time?"

Even after a long time. Corrections were duly appended to stories on the websites of newspapers, to prevent the eternal metastasizing of factual errors
. Maître Klein marvelled for a moment at such thoroughness. It seemed, I could tell, a little pointless to him: He, like almost everyone else I'd spoken to, rated facts far below reputation. Still, I decided to go over that ground one last time. Wasn't there some doubt about the actual fatal shot? Why sign this text?

"My dear," Theo Klein said, in an infinitely weary voice, "I'm not a journalist. I haven't read this petition. I have macular retina degeneration. I can no longer read."

Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to revive a moribund corpse from centuries of comatose nostalgia punctuated by moments of sheer panic & occasional bravery.

With all its faults, American journalism can dismiss a fraud like Dan Rather & his 60 Minutes inner posse.

That would never happen in state-controlled French electronic [& to a great extent, print] media.

2 comments :

GW said...

Great post, Dave. I've linked it and, unless you would prefer I not, I am submitting to the Watcher's Council this week as my nomination in the non-council category.

Anne-Elisabeth said...

Hi Dave, it's Anne-Elisabeth in Paris here, belatedly coming across your kind post - many thanks! I wonder what became of Peter Tarnoff, le premier énarque yankee! You use the word "ossified" to talk about the French elites: so very very true. Do you ever come back to France? (A very nice place to visit, etc.)